Kalyani University reinstates professor accused of rape, sparks outrage and legal complaints

Kalyani University reinstates professor accused of rape, sparks outrage and legal complaints

Biswabrata Goswami

KRISHNAGAR, 9 JULY: Kalyani University has reinstated Dr. Bibekananda Mukherjee as the Head of the Department of Visual Arts, despite serious allegations of rape made by a Ph.D. student under his guidance. This decision (Ref no -R/Estab/Headship/Vis.Art./2024/DP-268 dated 5. 7. 2024) has prompted the victim to lodge a formal complaint with the Governor and the Chancellor of the university against the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Amalendu Bhunia, for allegedly violating the Internal Complaint Committee’s (ICC) report.

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The ICC, reconstituted by the Calcutta High Court and formed in accordance with University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, found Dr. Mukherjee guilty and recommended his suspension for six months during its 50th meeting on 24 January, 2023. However, the ICC’s recommendation was conspicuously absent from the agenda of the Executive Council meeting on 22 February, 2023. Dr. Mukherjee subsequently filed a case against this decision, which was dismissed by the court.

Initially, the university removed Dr. Mukherjee from his position as the department head and as the Ph.D. guide for the victim. He was also stripped of all administrative roles. Despite this, he has been inexplicably reinstated to his previous position.

The victim student, who is now under the guidance of another faculty member, had filed a complaint with the Kalyani police station, initiating a police investigation. Although the accused received interim bail from the court, preventing immediate police action, the investigation continues.

A section of university teachers and students alleges that Dr. Mukherjee is leveraging his significant political connections to evade accountability. “We believe the university administration is protecting him due to his political ties with high-ranking officials of the ruling party,” stated one teacher under the condition of anonymity.

The victim, who joined as a research scholar in May 2021, claims that her guide coerced her into a sexual relationship, threatening her with severe consequences if she refused. She has also submitted a complaint to the National Commission for Women on 6 July.

The victim has expressed her dismay at the university’s failure to implement the ICC’s recommendations, allowing the accused to retain his position of influence. The victim alleged that Dr. Mukherjee’s reinstatement was influenced by his close association with Manisankar Mondal, Vice-President of the West Bengal College and University Professors’ Association (WBCUPA), and the current Vice-Chancellor.

In her letter to the chairman of National Commission for Women, the victim wrote, “It is deeply troubling that despite the seriousness of the allegations and the legal proceedings initiated, the accused teacher continues to enjoy impunity within the university. This not only undermines the safety and well-being of female research scholars but also perpetuates a culture of silence and tolerance towards sexual violence on campus. I always feel insecure on campus.”

The victim is urging authorities to intervene and ensure that the university administration takes immediate and effective action to address the allegations of rape and sexual harassment. She emphasized the need for justice, support, and protection for those affected by such misconduct.

Dr. Bhunia was not available for his comment.

Tags: #KalyaniUniversity #VisualArts #Reinstates #SexualHarassment #ResearchScholar

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